With over half of city private rented properties and 82 per cent of county rented properties failing local authority inspections,Threshold Galway is calling for an NCT-style inspection process to place more responsibility on landlords to ensure that their property meets the standards required.
This comes after the latest figures from the Environment Department revealed this week that close to 60 per cent of all private rental premises that were inspected by local authorities around the country last year failed basic minimum requirements. The Enforcement of Requirement for Standards and Rent Books 2013 figures show that four local authorities - county councils in Donegal, Louth, Offaly, and Limerick City Council - saw 100 per cent failure rates while other failures included Ballina Town Council (98 per cent ), Fingal County Council (96 per cent ), Longford County Council (91 per cent ), and Cork County Council (90 per cent ).
Of the city councils, Galway had the fewest number of inspections while nationally Galway County had the fourth lowest number of inspections. However, the failure rate of the properties inspected is still of some concern. Of the 164 properties inspected by Galway City Council 56 per cent failed to reach the minimum standard while 82 per cent of the 104 properties inspected by Galway County Council failed the inspection. In the county 86 notices were served on landlords for improvements to be carried out while 47 of these dwellings had no rent book and 41 notices were served in relation to this.
The minimum legal standards mean that properties should be free from rot or dampness, have a fixed bath or shower with hot and cold running water, have a working heat source and cooker, and a washing machine. Local authorities have the responsibility of checking properties in their area and inspections are carried out following complaints from the public as well as random inspection of properties on the local authority database.
However, services manager with Threshold Galway Diarmaid O’Sullivan said that local authorities do not take a proactive approach to enforcement of the regulations, that is “reactionary to complaints” and the onus must be placed on the landlords to confirm that their properities meet the standards required. Mr O’Sullivan also criticised the “miniscule” amount of fines and court cases that are brought against landlords who fail to comply with improvement notices.
“The figures are quite worrying as these are the basic standards. We’re calling for a type of NCT-like scheme for private rented properties in which landlords make a declaration that the property is meeting minimum standards. For the moment the responsibility is with the local authority, we want the onus to be put on the landlord, to put it in writing. There’s been some improvements with the current system but there is still a share of landlords who are not registered with the PRTB (Private Residential Tenancies Board ) and most of those properties would be sub standard.
“We’ve noticed in Galway that historically the biggest query has been about deposit retention. In the last year the query is mostly about standards and repairs. There is a growing problem with landlords increasing the rent but adopting the notion they can charge higher because there is more demand and people will take poorer quality accommodation. There are some buy to let landlords who are in difficulty and may not have the money for repairs but that is not the tenant’s problem,” said Mr O’Sullivan.
Following the release of the Leaving Cert results and the start of the college term Galway experiences a surge in students searching for accommodation. Threshold Galway advises all prospective tenants not to sign a lease without giving it full consideration, to take your time, and inspect the property carefully. Mr O’Sullivan advised: “Some students snap up the first place but they need to very carefully ensure that all is working correctly, look for signs of damp and that there is adequate ventilation. Be very clear on rent and deposit as well as utilities and refuse. Read the lease very carefully. Also be aware that if you sign a 12-month lease and come May or June leave, you could be held liable for the balance of the lease. Therefore, it is advisable for students to look for a nine-month lease.”